The holidays mean treasured time with family and friends, and sometimes travel and unfamiliar accommodations for you and your puppy. This change in routine can be stressful (for you and your puppy) and at times even dangerous--decorations in easy reach, stray gift wrapping, bits and pieces of children's toys, unknown pets in strange homes.
With proper planning, it is possible to successfully bring your puppy along on an extended trip to visit out-of-town loved ones.
BRING FAMILIAR ITEMS
Not only will you need all these things, but bringing what you use at home will lend a bit of familiarity to your puppy. Be sure to pack:
- bed (if your puppy uses one)
- food and dishes
- appropriate toys (Kong or Nylabone)
- Try to give your puppy exercise before driving (or flying), and after your arrival, prior to entering your host's home. (For TIPS on driving with your puppy, check out my post from October 12, 2010.)
- Keep your puppy on-leash initially, especially if there are gifts or snacks within reach.
- If there are pets in the home, introduce your puppy to them slowly. Use this opportunity to work on down/stays and settling exercises.
- If your puppy will play with another dog, make sure this happens in an area that has room--outside or in a basement, for instance. In our case, the resident pups are outsized by FLD Gus and there is no room to romp safely; Gus stays on-leash or in his crate while inside.
- Establish parameters--grant freedom gradually as your puppy learns the house and "park" arrangements.
MAINTAIN DAILY ACTIVITIES AS BEST AS POSSIBLE
- Maintain your puppy's feeding schedule, even if there is a time change.
- Get daily exercise (a walk is wonderful!) and don't forget some obedience work, although this is inherently integrated.
- Take the opportunity to work on distractions, down/stays, and commands such as LEAVE IT or MAT, both at the home and in unfamiliar restaurants or stores in the area.
- Don't be afraid to add crate time, if you give your puppy enough exercise and mental stimulation first.
- Get enough rest--both of you!
- New distractions to work with your puppy.
- Excellent socialization--in group settings, with different ages, and parties!
- Educate your hosts and the public in establishments you visit with your puppy.
This Christmas is FLD Gus's turn to travel with us to Wisconsin to see Andy's grandkids, Keegan and Alec. Last year, FLD Mike made the trip. With planning, I am mentally prepared to attend to my puppy, expose him to a stimulating environment and assortment of strangers, and still enjoy the family gatherings. As an added bonus, my step-grandkids get an education about raising puppies for Leader Dogs for the Blind!